Building an Ice Skating Rink for Girls in Afghanistan


On Dec. 31, I will be holding my eighth Annual Run and Walk at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre. It all started in 2010 when, on Dec. 31, I ran my final marathon of Marathon Quest 250, completing 250 marathons in one year. It’s hard to believe that every year since then the community of Cochrane and beyond has come out, often in temperatures of -20 C and lower, to help others. The first five years it was to support Right To Play and their play based educational programs in Benin, West Africa.

In 2015, the funds went to Boma La Mama to build a playground for a kindergarten class in the village of Mto wa Mbu in Tanzania. That year we raised $12,000 and these funds provided a swing set, a roundabout, teetertotters, a see-saw and a bouncy castle.

Last year, we raised $7,000 for Free to Run, an organization that uses sports to empower and educate women and girls from conflict affected communities. The funds were used for an unprecedented camping and kayaking expedition in the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan. A group of 11 female participants from multiple provinces in Afghanistan participated. Not only was it their first experience in the Panjshir Valley, but it was the first time they had ever camped outdoors or kayaked. It was also the first time an Afghan female had ever kayaked in the country.

This year we are again supporting Free to Run. This time we want to raise $10,000 to build an ice skating rink for Afghan females in the town of Bamyan, in the foothills of the Hindu Kush Mountains. A small rink was built this January for the girls and young women and for the first time ever they got a taste of gliding on ice. Said one young lady from the program, “for me, ice skating was amazing because when I started skating, I was wondering, ‘How is it possible to stand on a small blade and keep our balance?’ It’s another reason we can have confidence; if I can stand on ice with a blade, then anything is possible.” Last year, the Canadian Embassy in Afghanistan provided funding however this is not available this year.

On Sunday, Dec. 31 registration is by donation and goes from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You pick the distance: marathon, half marathon, 10 km, five kilometre or two kilometre “Cookie Loop.” Volunteers from the Calgary branch of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan will be on the sign in desk and will be providing Afghan music, dance and tea. They will also be selling goods made by women in Afghanistan.

This is a family friendly event so why not combine it with a swim or session on the bouncy castles.

So Cochrane, le’s keep these Afghan girls and young women on skates.

If you can’t make it then please consider making a donation at

Just scroll down and hit the big red “DONATE” button on the left hand side.

© 2017 Martin Parnell


About Author

Martin Parnell

In 2010, following a 25-year mining career, Martin Parnell started his "Quests for Kids" initiative. Over the next five years he completed 10 "Quests". These included running 250 marathons in one year, setting five Guinness World Records in endurance events and summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in 21 hours. At the end of 2014, he had raised over $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play and 27,000 children had been given the gift of hope. Martin's first book "MARATHON QUEST" was published by Rocky Mountain Books and CBC Radio listed him as one of Alberta's top five authors, for 2014. His second book, "RUNNING TO THE EDGE", was released in November 2016. Through keynotes and workshops, Martin shares his message of having a "Finish the Race Attitude - Setting goals and overcoming obstacles to unlock your potential". He is married to Sue, and has three children and three grandchildren.